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Opinion: Survey says: You factor in region’s economic future

Eyes & Ears

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It’s that time of year for Springfield Business Journal’s Economic Growth Survey, now in its fourth year.

You’ve probably received an email inviting you to take the survey. Or you’ve seen the promotions on, in our daily and weekly e-newsletters, and on our social media accounts.

We want to hear from you. No, more strongly, we need to hear from you.

As a leader in business and a contributor to our economy, what you say, think and feel about doing business in the Springfield region matters. It matters today, but particularly so in what it’s going to look like in the next five years or 10 years, even 20 years. The decisions that business and community leaders are making today set the direction for who and what Springfield will become. And the data we’re collecting, sharing and discussing is a key part of that picture.

Jordan Valley Park is a prime example of visioning work to me. I was remembering the other day the name Benjamin Alexander. As a young SBJ reporter, I was covering City Council meetings and general business matters coming through City Hall. This was at a time Vision 20/20 was in development and deployment. So, we’re talking early 2000s.

Alexander was central to all those meetings, discussions, handwringing – and there was plenty – and planning. He served as a principal planner in the city’s Department of Planning and Development. What seemed to start as a pet project for him ultimately turned into his role of project manager for Jordan Valley Park.

Have you visited Jordan Valley Park in recent months? Or walked or jogged the hard trail that weaves through it and extends beyond the park? I have and it’s been a sanctuary at times to break from the busy workdays or to just have a place to enjoy the outdoors in the middle of our city.

Alexander was key to the plan, when there was no park, no Hammons Field, no ice arena, no expo center. Other people were too: City Manager Tom Finnie, Mayor Tom Carlson and city environmental champion Barbara Lucks, to name a few. But I remember fondly the work of Alexander. He left Springfield in 2005 to take a federal job in Florida, and his imprint remains on our city.

The Economic Growth Survey is a similar kind of imprint.

We are at a critical point to envision other parts of our city and potential development areas. These are the days where 20 years from now, some journalist will be remembering when so-and-so had the foresight to do this or that.

So, speak up. Take the survey. Everybody wants to be heard. It’s no fun to look back and say I wish I had contributed to that great thing, and it’s no fair to look back and complain about the present when I had a chance to influence the outcome.

SBJ’s annual Economic Growth Survey is your chance. It’s just one mechanism. But it’s an important one. The data doesn’t stay on a server somewhere; it gets into your hands.

The results roll into forums and important discussions where business thought leaders come to make connections, sometimes personal with handshakes and follow-up meetings and other times through ideation and piecing together thoughts and plans.

That’s our vision for this project. And I know this year’s sponsor, Ollis/Akers/Arney, is right in line. In some ways, leading, with the vision CEO Richard Ollis has for the Economic Growth Survey program and how it fits into our city’s development. If you doubt me, ask him. You’ll hear his passion, and, to me, it’s contagious.

So, what is our next Jordan Valley Park? Some would say Lake Springfield, the decommissioned power plant and the 2,000 natural acres surrounding it. Others look to daylighting Jordan Creek downtown to significantly increase the quality of place for the open space. Yet, some point to public/private developments on the outskirts of Springfield or beyond its borders – think city youth sports complexes, mixed-use development near Amazon in Republic and affordable housing wherever the workforce needs it.

What do you say?

Have you taken the survey yet? If not, you can access the survey link at This year’s results will build upon data collected since 2019 and inform our business community for short- and long-term visioning, inspiration and generational change. Here’s the return-on-investment pitch: The 10-15 minutes you spend on it will help shape the future of our local economy and regional development for decades in the future.

Our hope is that these talks turn into the turning of shovels and breaking new ground as the winds of economic development blow through. There is definite momentum, despite widespread challenges in the current environment, and I believe Springfield will not leave it behind but push forward for the better.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Vice President Eric Olson can be reached at


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